Fifty Shades of Capital: Crony capitalism

There are many facets of our social reality influenced by global capitalism; this series serves to highlight the ever-expanding market’s effect on our daily lives. From Bon-App to the environment, capitalism has generated numerous negative consequences around the world.

The political landscape under capitalism is constantly changing and evolving. A hundred years ago, the United States was just another industrial nation in the world. After countless wars, invasions, acts of terror and economic crises, it is the current global empire. Today the country — and the world in general — is seeing a rise in fascist tendencies which seem to arise from nowhere. The election of President Donald Trump in 2016 apparently marks the rise of fascists and racists alike. At least, that is the liberal perspective. But an anarcho-communist lens, which accounts for the material foundations and historical processes we see today, acknowledges that these things have always existed under oppressive systems of statehood and capitalism.

Liberals like to label today’s capitalist system as corrupt, as if we are just “doing capitalism wrong.” This is a myth. The myth of crony capitalism is an excuse for all of the exploitative and oppressive qualities that have always been inherent to capitalism. A return to capitalism done right is reminiscent of the fascist calls to “Make America Great Again,” which imagines a period when the U.S. was prosperous for everyone. It is a convenient lie that white middle-class Americans tell themselves so they can feel comfortable with their privileged lives under capitalism. Of course, the liberal tendency is to maintain the status quo, lest we “rock the boat” too much.

Under capitalism, there are three points on the political spectrum which are always pulling at each other. When capitalism is stable — that is to say, continuing its exploitative business dotted with cyclical crises — society is dominated by liberalism. This is the ideal state for the middle class. The liberal state of capitalism is caught midway in a tug of war with fascism and communism on either end. These two ideologies are constantly contesting for change under liberalism.

Fascism vies for a greater concentration of power in the hands of a tiny few, enforced through totalitarian means. Fascism typically organizes along ethnic, religious, racial or gendered lines. American fascism is dominated by white males. The middle- and upper-class fascists use racial and ethnic ideologies to gain support from the white working class, as seen among Trump’s constituency. Despite what everyone is led to believe, liberal capitalism is open to fascism far more than communism. Fascism does not subvert the underlying economic structure of capitalism, and therefore capitalists can continue with business as usual under a fascist regime.

Why would the working-class support fascism, when it works against their interests? Well, within capitalism we have cyclical economic crises. These are a normal part of capitalism. Some rich asshats accumulate wealth until everyone’s life is miserable and they can no longer pay their debts. The economy crashes and the government swoops in with some sort of reform to fix everything. These reforms serve to return society to normal and to dissuade any calls for real structural change. The reforms are then undone when the fervor dies down and the cycle repeats.

During these crises and economic downturns, you have many working-class individuals who are unhappy with life and who can barely maintain a steady household. They do not know the source of their unhappiness, until a fascist swoops in and convinces them to blame people of color or immigrants or someone just as fictitious an enemy. As I said, liberalism supports this process because it maintains capitalism. Hence why Bernie Sanders was not supported — even by the media — and Trump was, who got all the media attention that a retired reality TV show host lives off of.

In Germany, Italy and Spain, the liberal governments allowed the fascists to temporarily rise in power to eliminate the communists. Unfortunately, the fascists got out of hand in each case and gained control of the government, and what do you know? Fascism spread around Europe like an invasive species.

Communism, on the other end of the political spectrum, is deterred every step of the way by the capitalists and fascists because it works to liberate the masses from the oppressive elites. Communism, in its simplest terms, seeks to democratize the economy by placing the means of production into the hands of the working class. The logic being that the people who make the stuff should own the stuff they use to make that stuff, while having fair compensation for their work. Under capitalism, the capitalist owns the stuff that is made, and the stuff used to make the stuff and extracts profit from the worker’s labor.

It is under economic crises that communism and fascism are closer to fruition, with these two opposing forces contesting for their respective ends. In the time of a revolution, society is at its most vulnerable to change. The unfortunate truth is that, even in revolution, the liberal-capitalist governments will support the fascists and it all collapses into fascist dictatorship. This happened in Spain, for example.

We can see these developments in U.S. history, both today and in the Great Depression era. In the ‘30s, FDR introduced the New Deal reform to extinguish a rise in communism in the country. Following this reformist period, WWII brought the United States into the world spotlight as a global empire through military might and capitalist prosperity. Then, the ‘80s brought a slew of neoliberal policies, followed by the 2008 crash and today’s predicament. Obama, having bailed out Wall Street and effectively screwing the US populace over, laid the foundation for Trump’s rise. An era of fascism.

What does this have to do with crony capitalism? Well, liberals like to pretend that a little reform will fix everything and that we can “do capitalism the right way.” This will not work. When political organization for change dies down after the reformist period, these policies will become undone and it will all repeat once again.

Today’s capitalist society is capitalism being done “the right way.” This is how capitalism is meant to work, and the sooner we acknowledge this fact the sooner we can work toward a new system and a brighter future.